Crackdown on protection racket

PUTRAJAYA: A syndicate offering protection to errant lorry drivers has been smashed with the arrest of its members, most of them Road Transport Department (JPJ) officers.

Its modus operandi was similar to a syndicate that was uncovered in Penang two years ago.

However, the latest case had syndicate members who operated in Kedah, Perlis, Perak and Melaka.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) will be casting a wider net to nab other suspects including more JPJ personnel who allegedly accepted bribes to protect lorry operators who committed traffic offences.

The activities of the syndicate, which has been operating since 2019, was put to an end following a special operation codenamed Ops Sukat, which saw the arrest of 44 individuals, of which 32 were JPJ officers.

The syndicate was believed to have raked in RM1.64mil in bribes.

MACC chief commissioner Datuk Seri Azam Baki, who confirmed the arrests, said that cooperation in investigating the case came particularly from JPJ’s director-general and its integrity division.

“We are still investigating the case and we are not ruling out the possibility of making more arrests in the coming days, ” he said yesterday.

Sources said investigations revealed that the JPJ officers would deal with lorry operators who had committed road offences, particularly for overloading and not meeting technical conditions stipulated by the department.

“Action would not be taken against errant operators after money is banked into the officers’ private accounts or that of their proxies on a monthly basis.

“Members of the syndicate are believed to have accepted between RM150 and RM3,000 a month. It is estimated that the syndicate members had collected around RM1.64mil over time, ” said a source.

Crime and punishment: Flashback to an article in ‘The Star’ on May 29, 2019, highlighting the trial of an errant JPJ officer charged with receiving bribes.Crime and punishment: Flashback to an article in ‘The Star’ on May 29, 2019, highlighting the trial of an errant JPJ officer charged with receiving bribes.

In 2019, the MACC held a similar operation in Penang that saw dozens of JPJ officers questioned for “protecting” lorry drivers.

The operation resulted in eight officers being charged with multiple counts of bribery. The bribes were inducements not to take action against lorry companies that committed traffic offences.

The payments were also for tip-offs, which the companies and drivers received to alert them about JPJ operations.

Sources also said those who had paid the “protection” money would be given special logos to display on their windscreens for JPJ personnel to identify them.

Yesterday, three of nine JPJ officers arrested were remanded for four days until Friday following an application by MACC prosecutor S. Selvaranjini before assistant registrar Muhammad Azam Md Eusoff.

In Perak, three of the eight JPJ officers arrested during Ops Sukat were remanded for six days, along with two members of the public who acted as proxies.

Perak MACC director Datuk Mohd Fauzi Mohamad said that all five people, aged between 31 and 46, would be remanded until Sunday.

In Melaka, the MACC arrested 11 people, including seven JPJ officers. Ten of them were remanded for a week while another was remanded for five days.

In Kedah, graft-busters arrested eight JPJ officers, one traffic policeman, a former traffic policeman and a member of the public, while in Perlis, one person was arrested in connection with the case.

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